If there was a theme to last year, it was that ordinary people can make a difference. The campaign to save Lewisham Hospital wasn’t won by politicians, it was won by the people. It was local campaigning that forced retreats on Greenwich Council’s pavement tax, and GLL’s daft plan to rename Charlton Lido as “Royal Greenwich Lido”, too.
And the decency and bravery of the people of Woolwich in the face of a horrific murder set an example to us all.
For all the eye-rolling and cynicism about aspects of public life in our often-overlooked corner of London, last year’s events are a reminder that all of us can make a difference, even just by talking to people and spreading the word.
Looking at the most-viewed posts of 2013, it’s also clear there’s a big appetite for information about that the future of this area. There’s been some aspects I’ve simply not had time to cover – such as the continuing unhappiness about plans for Charlton’s riverside, or the woefully under-publicised scheme to redevelop estates in Woolwich and Charlton. I hope to take a closer look at these in 2014.
Oh, and it seems people like to be informed about a certain half-marathon, too…
1) Run to the Beat organisers sorry after course cock-up (8 September 2013)
(The most-read post on this site, ever. Well, they can’t say they weren’t warned…)
2) Social cleansing: End of the Greenwich Peninsula dream? (2 April 2013)
(Greenwich Council’s decision to allow a developer to build no affordable homes on a prime site went largely unreported elsewhere.)
3) Popular councillor Mary Mills out in election sensation (10 June 2013)
(Sometimes, people actually do care about their elected representatives.)
4) Will Tesco save or strangle Woolwich? (26 November 2012)
(One from last year. The answer seems to be “neither”, with rumours that the Tesco hasn’t taken off in quite the way the supermarket giant hoped it would.)
5) Thought Greenwich Council was too skint for fireworks? (30 August 2013)
(Another running sore – especially pertinent now money’s being thrown at tall ships.)
7) The Gilligan files: Greenwich Council’s cycling sulk revealed (6 August 2013)
(A quiet, but welcome U-turn followed, and Andrew Gilligan eventually met Greenwich cabinet member Denise Hyland in November – indications are that Greenwich borough won’t be missing out on the cycling commissioner’s plans after all.)
8) Run to the Beat 2013 to shut locals in again (23 March 2013)
(The race’s route changed after this story – leading to problems later…)
9) Woolwich gets 21-storey towers – but will Crossrail follow? (25 April 2013)
10) The Crossrail conundrum towering over Woolwich (18 February 2013)
(Pivotal decisions about Woolwich’s future were made this year – one definitely right, another was more questionable.)
Bubbling under: Why Greenwich Peninsula is going in the wrong direction (8 April 2013), Greenwich Council bullying: The cleaner’s story revealed by BBC (8 December 2013), Council bullying: Wannabe MPs pile in (7 October 2013), Greenwich Council ‘in new Charlton Athletic stadium talks’ (19 August 2013) and Will Greenwich Labour pick right-wing party founder for council? (7 June 2013)
2014 will see council elections across London – although in Greenwich, it’s more likely to resemble a slow-moving car crash rather than a cavalcade of democracy. There may also be a new council leader – but will the new broom in charge at Woolwich Town Hall sweep away a culture of bullying, arrogance and complacency? We’ll also see the bizarre tall ships boondoggle take to the Thames, while London mayor Boris Johnson will close fire stations, talk river crossings (you can help fight Silvertown) and be embarrassed by his cable car. Jeremy Hunt’s likely to have another go at closing Lewisham Hospital’s A&E with planned changes to the law.
As for predictions, I expect cuts will really begin to bite to 2014. A growing appetite for local campaigning will continue during the year as people seek to protect pubs, shops and local services from distant management, poor policy or cutbacks. And I reckon shoots of gentrification will start to appear in unheralded districts such as Charlton, Woolwich town centre and Plumstead, to a mixed reception.
Thanks for your support of 853 during last year, and for your tip-offs (and sorry if I never replied) – please keep ‘em coming. Here’s to 2014…